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Smith v. The City University of New York, 1999 N.Y. Int. 0001. (Feb. 11, 1999).

OPEN MEETINGS LAW - PUBLIC BODY - PUBLIC OFFICERS


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether the LaGuardia Community College Association, Inc. violated New Yorkęs Open Meetings Law by preventing interested parties from attending a March 1994 meeting.

Disposition

Yes. The Association, Inc. is a public body under §102(2) of the Public Officers Law, and therefore is subject to the stateęs Open Meetings Law.

SUMMARY

The Association, Inc. is an organization of LaGuardia Community College, formed to review proposed budgets, to allocate student activity fees and to authorize disbursement of fees to student organizations. At a December 1993 meeting, the Association, Inc. voted to suspend publication of a student newspaper. The newspaper was then investigated by a subcommittee of the Association, Inc., in an effort to determine whether offensive statements printed in the paper violated college bylaws governing student publications. Members of the paper were prevented from attending a meeting in which the investigation of the newspaper was discussed. These members challenge the applicability of the stateęs Open Meetings Law.

The Supreme Court declared that the Association, Inc. is a public body under §102(2) of the Public Officers Law. As a public body, it was subject to the Open Meetings Law. The Appellate Division unanimously reversed, holding that under the law, the Association, Inc. is not a public body. The Appellate Division found that the Association, Inc. acted in merely an advisory function, with no power to decide money allocations.

The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and remitted the case to the supreme court for further proceedings, holding that the Association, Inc. is a public body under §102(2) of the Public Officers Law. The role the Association, Inc. enjoys is more than an advisory function.  By going beyond the advisory role, the Association, Inc. exercises quintessentially a government function. It is invested with real and effective decision making power, and with the power to regulate and suspend student publications. Furthermore, it -holds the purse strings" to the student activity fee budget. These factors were all considered when determining if the organization fell within the confines of a public body, thus making the Open Meetings Law applicable.

The Court of Appeals noted several other issues raised in the lower court which were not currently before the Court to decide. These issues include the classification of the funds as State funds, the application of the four-month Statute of Limitations to appellantsof Appellant Smith's student activity fee.


Prepared by the liibulletin-ny Editorial Board.